Romantic Poets

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Nature is a dominant theme in Romantic poetry. Compare William Wordsworth and Keats in their poetries of nature. How does Wordsworth's attitude towards nature differ from that of Keats? Illustrate these differences using some of their poems.

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A good Wordsworth poem to demonstrate Wordsworth's attitude towards nature is "Lines Composed A Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey." In this poem, Wordsworth alludes to the healing properties of nature. After experiencing "the din / Of towns and cities," he retreats to the "tranquil restoration" of the "wild secluded scene" around Tintern Abbey. He describes how the "beauteous forms" of nature provide him with "sensations sweet" in "hours of weariness." Romantic poets often celebrated the beauty and the restorative powers of nature, and would often do so in part by contrasting the beauty of the natural world with the ugliness of cities. Indeed, Wordsworth was writing (as were other Romantic poets) during the Industrial Revolution, when cities were expanding and intruding upon the natural world. In this context, Wordsworth's celebration of nature becomes all the more significant.

In "On The Sea," Keats demonstrates a different attitude towards nature. In this poem, Keats describes the power of nature in a more literal, physical sense. He describes the sea's "mighty swell" and its capacity to consume "twice ten thousand Caverns." He also compares the power of the sea to "Hecate," the Greek goddess of magic and witchcraft. This depiction of nature is a familiar characteristic of Romantic poetry. Indeed, Romantic poetry often describes, in awed tones, the vast size and power of nature in relation to the relative insignificance of man.

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Both Wordsworth and Keats find a redemptive and pure quality to nature.  Their poems extol nature as the one domain that remains free from social corruption and impurity.  There is a sense that order in the world and ethical structure to it is present in the natural setting.  In many poems, Wordsworth artculates this belief.  Take a read at the poem, "I Wandered Lonely as Cloud" and see how many ways nature provides a sense of inspiration and salvation to the speaker.  From the cloud wandering to the field of daffodils, there are images and direct connection to the powerful nature of nature.  In "The Solitary Reaper," Wordsworth conjures up the image of a woman who is inseparable from her natural setting, making her as elusive and as pure.  In Keats' poems, the theme of nature is a backdrop which allows for his delving into the nature of truth, art, and existence.  At the same time, his ode "To Autumn" contains imagery and moods that help to bring out the glory of nature and its natural beauty.  In "La Belle Dame Sans Merci," the natural setting is what allows the story of the knight and his fall from grace to take place.

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